More than 54 per cent of Indian workforce as per 2011 census is engaged in agriculture. And, it for the last 20 years has been trying to get 4 per cent rate of growth in agriculture and has failed. The rate of agriculture growth since the reforms began has hovered around 3.2-3.3 per cent. And then comes a State, which for a whole decade, from 2001 to 2011, achieves agriculture GDP growth rate of 9.8 per cent - and the good show is still on. Statistically, the difference is three times higher than the rest of India.
India lives in the villages - as the saying goes. We have been a rural economy, no doubt. But India owns cities as well. Now after 65 years of democracy, we have grown beyond the myth that village is innocent and city is cunning. At the time of independence our urban areas had just 17.3 per cent of the population. As per the latest census, the urban share comes to 32 per cent - roughly 370 million of our population. Almost 60 million more than the entire population of US.
Since the launch of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) in 2005 India has significantly improved its key health outcomes - notably in child survival, maternal mortality, immunisation, and population stabilisation. However we may still not be able to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in health by 2015.
A few days ago my friend, the hon'ble finance minister, in the course of an interaction, asked me a question, how much economics does Mr Modi know? I responded by saying, what is it that makes a good leader of a government?
I sought an appointment with the prime minister and was due to meet him sometime in June 2009 at 1100 hrs. I met Montek and Isher over breakfast and sought their opinion. Both said, go for it. I was emboldened by this and when I met the PM, I told him that I want to do this project. He warmly agreed to my proposition and picked up the phone and spoke to Montek requesting him to close this before he leaves for St Petersburg.
Financial inclusion presents a way of bringing economic well being to millions of people particularly the underprivileged sections in India who do not have any protective financial umbrella and for whom the need for financial protection is paramount. It is a contemporary theme of vital national importance if we are to unleash the country's growth potential and promote equity.
I personally believe that the living conditions of the rural poor receive very little attention. Problems of poor people in rural areas need to be given more space in public discourse. MGNREGA has enabled both livelihood security and social development. Issues of delay in payment of wages and lack of adequate technical staff remain. Increased focus is also necessary on creation of durable and quality assets through sustained convergence with other government programmes and schemes.
While the middle class in India has been a topic of intense debate, it has always been considered a self-absorbed entity, detached from electoral politics. It is only in the last few years that we have seen it shedding its so called political apathy. According to my understanding, this apathy was an outcome of the realisation that their numerical strength was insufficient for them to be a pivotal force in electoral politics. This in turn implied that their influence on politicians and thus public policy was limited.